Van Gogh at Play with Nanocrystals

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    By Paul Podsiadlo and Elena Shevchenko, Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials

    This psychedelic pattern comes from a thin layer of lead-sulfide nanocrystals evaporated atop a silicon surface. The black branch is a deliberate scratch on the smooth area and creates a rough patch where crystals are more likely to form. Understanding how nanoparticles behave at the molecular level could help scientists use them in solar cells, batteries and other energy devices.

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    The pattern represents a film of 7.5-nanometer lead sulfide nanocrystals evaporated on the surface of a silicon wafer. The branch is formed by “supercrystals”: faceted 3-D assemblies of the same nanocrystals, crystallized in a mechanically induced scratch. The supercrystals have shown preferential nucleation in scratches. The picture is a true, unaltered image, obtained with an optical microscope in reflected light mode.

    Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.

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